Progress made on new safety fund by G7
In May I wrote a blog about a new fund that the world’s main industrialised countries (The G7) were setting up to help prevent workplace deaths and injuries. The catalyst for this was the large number of appalling industrial accidents in supply chains such as the collapse of the Raina Plaza garment factory in 2013, which had cost more than 1200 workers’ lives. Well now it looks as though it might happen.
At a meeting in Berlin earlier this month, G7 ministers agreed on a series of measures, including the creation of a multi-donor fund for action in producing countries. The fund will support social dialogue and the application of International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards on occupational safety and health as well as fundamental principles and rights at work in global supply chains. The Fund, which will start operating in January 2016, will be administered by the ILO with oversight by unions, employers organisations and governments. Key to the operation of the fund will be the supply chain, which employs some 450 million workers. It is unclear how much money will be available and how it will work in practice. So far the European Union, United States and Germany have agreed to provide money for the fund.
In addition, the summit agreed to develop a “common understanding” on due diligence and “responsible supply chain management.” However, unions have criticised the lack of regulation on this and have complained that the voluntary approach has failed. Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, said “Other G7 countries should follow France’s lead and bring forward legislation that makes corporate “due diligence” for human rights mandatory.”
Another point that I would want to make on the summit is that it is very cynical for the EU and the US to seek to ensure that developing countries apply ILO standards while refusing to ratify them all themselves. Certainly the UK has a pretty bad record. The answer that the British Government usually gives is that there is no need to ratify most of the ILO conventions as the EU already has regulations that exceed the ILO requirements, however that is simply not true. A recent report on EU health and safety regulation stated that 15 ILO Conventions on health and safety set additional or more stringent requirements than the EU regulations. Of those, the UK has not ratified 11 of them. In addition, there is one, (on inspections) where the UK has only ratified part of it. So what we say to both the EU and the UK is that this fund is a very important and welcome step, but don’t forget to put your own house in order as well.